Monday, May 31, 2010

Patriotic or Apathetic?

The other day I saw a photo of people at a parade watching the U.S. flag go by. Only one person was standing, an elderly man, no doubt a veteran, who had hoisted himself out of his wheelchair to show his respect. You might have seen that photo. I believe it was online.

For some reason that image has stuck with me. Actually, it kind of stuck in my craw because it seemed to represent a symptom of something that’s gone wrong with this country. Call it apathy or loss of respect or loss of patriotism, but it’s definitely something. I noticed it again as I drove through town. Only a few flags were being displayed. And no parade.

Parades used to be a big thing. Maybe in large cities they still are, but they’re disappearing in small ones. It could be a cost-cutting measure or it could be that symptom again, but whatever it is, I feel sorry for all the kids who are not getting to experience the excitement and energy of a parade. I have great memories from my childhood, standing with my parents and grandparents on the sidewalk, holding a little flag in my hand, hearing the stirring drumbeat as a band came up the street playing a Sousa March. When the U.S. flag appeared, any man wearing a hat immediately doffed it. All veterans saluted. Everyone else put their hands over their hearts. No one spoke.

I can remember blinking back tears, caught up in the emotion of the moment. It was great. Then there was the time I was actually in the parade, twirling a baton, wearing an Uncle Sam costume, complete with long gray beard and top hat. I believe the temperature set a record high that day. Not so great that year.

Have we lost that emotional connection to our flag? Is our respect for and pride in our country gone? I’d like to think I’m just missing it somehow. I’d like to think that parents nudge their children to stand up straight, place their hands over their hearts, and show respect when the flag passes by. I’d like to think the parents are setting good examples by doing the same.

Are you seeing this, too? Does your city or town hold parades? Do you think we’ve become unpatriotic? Apathetic? Disgusted, maybe?

Happy Memorial Day to you all, and especially to you veterans. Thank you for your belief in this country and for the sacrifices you've made for us. I salute you.



Heather said...

Happy Memorial Day, Kate!

I think the strain on budgets is a major reason fewer communitites host parades. I've lived in Madison most of my life and don't ever remember a parade, though I know from hisotrical archives that there used to be a huge to-do for Memorial Day. Now the closest parade is in a small community our city surrounds.

Madison does, however, hold a ceremony at both Soldier's Lot and Confederate Rest - Civil War graveyards in Forest Hill Cemetery (est. just before the Civil War). The VFW also holds a remembrance ceremony at the Capitol. My family was invited to attend the year my father passed, though anyone is welcome to attend.

I also believe that many adults have become apathetic in teaching their children respect for the flag and our veterans - perhaps leftover from the Vietnam conflict? There was one year we attended a parade in a nearby town when one friend's young son refused to stand up with the rest of us as the flag passed by. We made sure he understood just how angry and disappointed we were with his behavior and lack of respect by the end of the parade. The next time we attended a similar event, that young man was on his feet before the rest of us. ;)

Helen Kiker said...

The pledge of allegence was the thing that inspired respect for the flag. Then there was the controversy over "under God" and I think that changed the school's role - they no longer sparked the loyalty to country.

Dru said...

I miss those days when we couldn't wait for the holidays to come because we knew we were going to see a parade and enthusiastically wave our flags.

I remember visiting my niece's assembly and not only did they not say the Pledge of Allegiance, but I didn't see a flag.

Katie said...

I know in our house, there will be respect for the flag. my kids dad is in the service as were their grandfathers and great grandfathers. I was so proud the day my 5 year old came home and said the Pledge of Allegiance.

It really burns me when people don't put their hand over their heart for the National Anthem or think its okay to burn the flag.

Katie said...

as for parades, my town doesn't have one (that I know of), but Lexington does, unfortunately I can never make to to any of them.

Mason Canyon said...

Happy Memorial Day. I miss the parades and the respect everyone seem to have. I say whether you support war or not, we should support our soldiers.

Thoughts in Progress

jbstanley said...

I grew up in a small town and we always had wonderful 4th of July parades. We'd all decorate our bikes in red, white, and blue and the dads would be Uncle Sam and the moms Betsy Ross. We sang all the patriotic songs that most kids aren't taught anymore.

I buy a new American flag each year because I don't like my flags to look ratty or have holes in them. I want a crisp, bold flag that shouts our patriotism loud and clear.

I saw that photo of the only man standing at the parade and it made me very sad. The only thing I can do is teach my children to respect what that symbol stands for. There will be no flag burning in this house, let me tell you!

Andrea C. said...

I think parades in general have become a bit obsolete as the home town feel of our towns is going away. As for patriotism - I think you are right Kate - it is a mix of apathey and disgust for what is happening in our country. :(

Rural View said...

I live in NE Penn. Around here the big parade is on the 4th of July and the local people are very patriotic. Everyone stands when the flag goes by, no matter how many military units, etc. Memorial Day is a more private time for families to visit the cemeteries. I'm the last survivor of my father's family who are buried in IL and AZ so no one tends their graves, and I doubt if anyone does that for my mom's family graves in IL either. Sad.

Kate Collins said...

Good comments, folks! Heather, I was thinking along those same lines -- that things changed with the Vietnam War -- or is it "conflict"?

Rural View, you make a good point. Perhaps Memorial Day is just a quieter holiday, a more personal one.
Grave sites are another issue. My dad was cremated, so there is no site. And I just read that cremation is being very popular, as high as 37% are choosing that route -- less environmental impact and way less expense. I wonder what kind of impact that will have on memorial events way down the road. Maybe one day there won't be gravesites to visit. Who knows? (That could be a whole new blog topic.)

Kate Collins said...

Just a side note: Tomorrow is the grand opening of a new blog called "Killer Characters," put together by all the cozy chicks and about 18 other cozy mystery authors. There's just one hitch. It won't be us blogging. We've been hijacked by our characters! It should be lots of fun, hopefully very entertaining, so consider yourselves invited. starting June 1st. Stop by!

signlady217 said...

I think that respect is the key, and if it's not being taught (for whatever reason) then it won't be shown/seen.

My husband, dad, maternal grandfather and an uncle all served in the military. And we have a host of friends who served in the past or are serving now. My cousin's son served and was killed in action last June, and we buried him on July 4th last year.

This family is definitely huge supporters of our troops! Thanks to all of you and your families.

Candace said...

There are places that still celebrate Memorial Day complete with Color Guard, marching bands and floats! Avon Lake, Ohio. Flint, Michigan. Boise, Idaho to name a few. However, it may be difficult to find people who will show respect. If our president will not wear a flag pin, somehow that casual attitude toward patriotism filters down, I think.
Politics aside, Kate was uncomfortable in her Uncle Sam outfit-not only because it was hot but because feminine Kate would have been better suited in a short sequin costume than full Uncle Sam regalia. We were maybe 8 or 9 yrs. old. I felt bad that you had to wear the heavy duty gear and I didn't. Together we marched that mile and half route up the main street with much of the town looking on. We also didn't disband until the ceremonial part at the park was completed. Respect for our flag and our military was a way of life growing up and still evokes emotion to this day. Thanks for the memories and the thoughtful commentary, Kate.

Lover of Books said...

Happy Memorial Day. My oldest son learned about it at school. We don't have a parade here. But we do for the 4th of July. We will hang up our flag once we move into our townhome. It's been difficult to hang it up outside at our apartment. But that will change as stated above. :)


Maggie Sefton said...

Fort Collins no longer has a parada, but there are lots of smaller ceremonies going on all over town for Veterans. But, I do miss all the big parades and patriotic events I grew up with in Arlington, VA, outside Washington, DC. We were all very proud to show our respect for the flag and our service men and women. I still remember going to that beautiful service at Arlington National Cemetary, where the President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Very moving.

My flag is every Memorial Day, July 4th, and Veterans Day.

Kate Collins said...

Sign lady, my heart goes out to your cousin and family for the loss of their son. We have many in our family who served proudly, and thank God all returned safely.

Candace, how did you get out of wearing the Uncle Sam costume? I thought we both wore one. Were you in spangles that year? All I remember is how hot the jacket was and scratchy the beard was. (I have pictures to prove it.)

tonya kappes said...

I posted that same picture on my blog today!
Our town still had the annual parade with floats and candy. It was great.

Barbara said...

I come from a military family and now with my family my kids are taught to respect the flag and all it stands for. Our city holds several parades and we at least go to one. When I had to take my father in law to the VA hospital I took the boys and they had a great time listening to stories and learning that everyone no matter how young or old has a story to tell.

Valerie Consoer said...

I think everyone has a twinge in their heart when they see a veteran saluting the American flag. I know I sure do! Everytime I see the American flag, I want to let the tears flow freely down my cheeks. I remember marching in the Christmas parade in our small town and the pride that I felt. Everyone smiled and waved to us and we were all so happy. The Christmas parade isn't what it used to be anymore. We've never had a fourth of July parade or anything of that nature, but I wish we had.
There was a comic in our town newspaper today that made my heart skip a beat. I'm not sure if it was just our paper or not but it was touching. There was a little boy telling his daddy to keep the flag up to honor the living veterans along with the ones that gave their lives for our country. Very touching.
I think the economy definitely has something to do with not many celebrations taking place in small towns. It's very sad, but there's reasoning behind it. I still proudly display a small flag at home and let the tears roll down my face when I hear the national anthem. Thank you to all of our veterans!

Terri P aka WindDancer said...

I think parades is a money issue in a lot of cases. Here in DC we ahve all sorts of memorial day activities. But that said I think in part is people arent even been taught the rules of respect. Not just standing, taking hats off and crossing heart when the flag goes by or is raised. But then there is the flag NEVER touch ground, fly at night or in rain rules. When I tell people they look at me blankly. Its like manners, a lot of people dont know proper behavior. And that is sad because they are simple things that mean a lot.

Jan said...

In Phoenix,AZ Memorial Day is just another excuse for the illegal immigrants to protest, and I find it both depressing and disrespectful! This city is probably the least patriotic in the country. The City of Phoenix doesn't even honor Veterans Day, instead they celebrate "Cesar Chavez" Day. Disgusting. But, I do plan to fly the Flag high on Flag Day, June 14th!

Kate Collins said...

Jan, that is so sad! AZ is certainly having more than its share of troubles right now. I'm glad you're not afraid to show your patriotism.

Jan said...

I really can't be, so many friends and relatives have served in the armed forces, or are serving now, and a whole lot of my friends are cops!